Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Brazil arrests eight Vale employees over mining dam disaster

February 15, 2019

Brazilian authorities arrested eight employees of mining giant Vale on Friday over a dam collapse at one of its mines three weeks ago that killed at least 166 people and left 147 missing, presumed dead.

Those apprehended — two executives, two managers and four members of teams that checked the stability of the collapsed dam — were being held to determine responsibility in relation to “hundreds of crimes of aggravated homicide,” the prosecutor’s office in the affected southeast state of Minas Gerais said in a statement.

It said they would be held in custody for 30 days. Police with warrants were also carrying out searches for evidence, including in Vale’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.

Information leading to the arrests and warrants came from statements to police by two engineers from a German firm, TUEV SUED, contracted by Vale to inspect and certify the dam.

The engineers were arrested four days after the dam’s collapse along with three Vale employees for questioning and were released a week later.

Four other TUEV SUED employees in Brazil were being sought by police.

The January 25 dam collapse is Brazil’s worst industrial disaster. The reservoir, holding millions of tons of tailings — mineral-laced mining waste — broke apart and washed over the Vale iron ore mine near the town of Brumadinho.

Most of those buried under its thick mud were mine workers, though some nearby residents were also engulfed.

Emergency crews continue to pick through the mud to look for bodies, but officials have said it was likely not all remains would be recovered.

An aerial view taken after the collapse of a dam, which belonged to Brazil's giant mining company Vale, near the town of Brumadinho in southeastern Brazil on Jan. 25 2019. Minas Gerais Fire Department / AFP

‘Crown jewel’

Vale, the world’s biggest iron ore miner and one of Brazil’s biggest companies, lost a quarter of its market value after the disaster.

It insists that it observed all safety regulations regarding the dam. It dismisses reports that potential problems were detected before the disaster, saying they were addressed.

Its CEO, Fabio Schvartsman, said Thursday that Vale should not be punished over the disaster at its mine.

The company, he said, “is a Brazilian crown jewel that cannot be condemned for an accident that occurred in its dam, no matter how big the tragedy,” he told a Congressional committee.

The disaster was the second involving Vale in three years in the same region of Brazil, after a 2015 collapse of another tailings dam at a jointly owned mine that caused what is considered the country’s worst-ever environmental catastrophe.


This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

Support the Tico Times

You may be interested

Slothy Sunday: Meet the sloth moms, released and thriving
Sloth Sundays
1757 views
Sloth Sundays
1757 views

Slothy Sunday: Meet the sloth moms, released and thriving

Rachael Griffiths / Toucan Rescue Ranch - September 27, 2020

This Sloth Sunday is dedicated to the released two-fingered sloth moms that have been prospering since being in Toucan Rescue Ranch’s…

Costa Rica reopens to key tourism market as it welcomes Mexican visitors
Costa Rica
1125 views
Costa Rica
1125 views

Costa Rica reopens to key tourism market as it welcomes Mexican visitors

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 26, 2020

Costa Rica will open its doors to the arrival of tourists from Mexico, after considering a drop in reported Covid-19…

Costa Rica tourism: What states might be allowed next? [updated]
Costa Rica
2286 views
Costa Rica
2286 views

Costa Rica tourism: What states might be allowed next? [updated]

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 26, 2020

Since September 1, Costa Rica has welcomed tourists from a growing number of U.S. states. According to Gustavo Segura, Costa…